Saving Our Parents

As adults, we try to develop the character traits that would have rescued our parents.
— Alain de Botton
I still have problems, of course.  I just have different ones.

I Read This And It Changed My Life

Readers like to talk about books they’ve read.  And one thing you’ll hear about sometimes is “this book changed my life.”   Maybe it was a book that made you feel less alone, or changed how you see the world, or inspired you.

But sometimes they’re more mundane than that.

Dealing with my father’s finances reinforced for me how differently I deal with finances than my parents did.  And a big reason why is that I read Personal Finance For Dummies by Eric Tyson shortly after I graduated college.   There are probably other books that could’ve done the job, but this was the one I found and that worked for me.  It was accessible, practical, and yes, inspiring.  This book encouraged me to reduce and track my spending, to pay off my college loans early, and to live differently than my parents had shown me.

It may not be what most people mean by “this book changed my life.” But I no longer get daily phone calls from creditors. That’s a big enough thing to me.

When home’s not home

We cannot bring you back when home’s not home
We can’t make you pay debts you will not own
We cannot reason with the unforeseen
We can’t compromise when there’s no in-between

— Marian Call, in her song “In The Black”. She’s released both studio and live versions.

This reminds me of my parents; making my own life meant that my home wasn’t theirs anymore, that I didn’t own the obligations they thought I had, and there wasn’t always a good in-between. (And, of course, with Mother’s Day in May and Father’s Day in June, I’m getting reminded of my parents a lot.)

Full lyrics are at this page.

“Parent-Free Life”

Today I’ve lived a year without my parents.  We didn’t always agree, and we especially didn’t always agree about my weight, but they were my parents and I loved them.   I am not my parents.  Mom, Dad, and I were three very different people.  I grew up thinking of myself as one side of a triangle.  But eventually I began to see myself as my own person, and not just as their daughter.  And we all made our own choices.  My parents weren’t always happy with my choices, but what parent IS happy with all their children’s choices?  Hell, sometimes I haven’t been totally happy with my choices.

Here’s a secret: I haven’t always been happy with my parents’ choices, either.

Mixed feelings may not be very Hallmark, but at least they’re real.

Today I told the man of the house that I’ve been an orphan for a year.   He suggested I consider thinking of myself as “parent-free” instead of “orphaned” or “parent-less.”  I laughed.  Hopefully being “parent-free” will involve keeping the good memories, letting the hurt fade and keeping the lessons learned.

Five Things Make A Post

1) I am sooo looking forward to tomorrow morning, when Mark Reads will post the second-to-last chapter of Deadline.   Mark Reads reviews books a chapter at a time, progressing through books every other weekday, and it’s been building to this OMG HUGE second-to-last chapter for weeks.  (Need I say “spoilers”?) Some of the books he’s done this with in the past are the Harry Potter books, The HobbitThe Lord of the Rings,  and The Hunger Games.  Deadline is the middle book of the Newsflesh trilogy & Mark’s reading the whole thing, starting with the first chapter of Feed here.

2) I got myself a Fitbit Zip to help me be more consistently active — I use it as a pedometer that does built-in recordkeeping, so I can get a sense of how active I am in general, not just a single day. Since I got it I’ve found myself at work focusing deeply for one to two hours and then getting up to walk and get water or coffee or tea or something.  I’d quit feeling guilty about it because I found that a brief break to walk and stretch lets me focus better afterward.  This article helps me rationalize it more ;)

3) A year ago today I signed my father’s hospice paperwork as his medical power of attorney.  The anniversary was a bit freaky this week.  At the moment I’m at peace with it all, but I know my reactions will likely continue to change.

4) I’ve been posting on fat discrimination at http://fatdiscrimination.tumblr.com. It’s not a subject I want to dive into a lot, so posts are somewhat sporadic.

5) Like Paul Campos, I probably wouldn’t vote for Chris Christie.  But it’s not about his weight.

Harriet Brown on Weight Bullying by Parents

Image courtesy of Stocky Bodies

Image courtesy of Stocky Bodies

[Discussion of bullying and weight punishments; feel free to skip.]

Harriet Brown has a piece in the New York Times Well blog on “Feeling Bullied by Parents About Weight“:

Parents and other adults who are “only trying to help” may do harm rather than good, as a recent study from the journal Pediatrics makes clear.

It is a good discussion and I’m glad to see it.  At the same time, it can be upsetting to see things you’ve lived with discussed dispassionately. Dr Rebecca Puhl, from the fat-phobic Rudd Center, appears, as does Ellyn Satter.

“There still remains the widespread perception that a little stigma can be a good thing, that it might motivate weight loss,” said Dr. Puhl, a clinical psychologist. (Medical doctors, too, fall prey to this misconception.) But research done at the Rudd Center and elsewhere has shown that even well-intentioned commentary from parents and other adults can trigger disordered eating, use of laxatives and other dangerous weight-control practices, and depression.

Hells yes, y’all, parents can bully their fat children.  Or maybe you don’t want to call it “bullying.”  Maybe you want to call it teasing, belittling, or harassing.  Oh, here’s one: providing incentive.  Maybe buying your kids clothes that “will fit when you lose weight” instead of now, or pointing out that the fat kid gets different (less) food than the rest of the family, is just something that “has to be done” too.  No, it’s not.  It is abusive. And you should not be surprised if the kids you reject for being fat reject you in turn.

Kudos to Harriet for broaching a topic that many parents like to pretend doesn’t exist.  Also for common sense suggestions, including

¶ Don’t blame your child for his weight. [...]

¶ Don’t engage in “fat talk,” complaining about weight and appearance, whether it’s your own, your child’s or a celebrity’s. [....]

¶ Don’t promise your child that if only he lost weight, he wouldn’t be bullied or teased. [...]

¶ Don’t treat your child as if he has — or is — a problem that needs remedying. “This will make him feel flawed and inferior,” says Ellyn Satter, a dietitian and therapist in Madison, Wis., and author of “Your Child’s Weight: Helping Without Harming.” Instead, she suggests, focus on a child’s other good qualities, and encourage traits like common sense, character and problem-solving skills.

I would strongly recommend NOT reading the comments in the Times. 

Thankful Thursday

Things that I am thankful for:

1 The man of the house packed a yummy lunch for me today.  He also cooked each night I was home this week.
2 AC. Most houses in Seattle don’t have AC.  I don’t regret installing ours, even if we barely used it last year.
3 A job where showing up in shorts one day and a dress the next is fine.
4 A boss who reminds me that I have strengths, and who encourages me to use them.
5 Initial “let’s start probate” paperwork has been fixed for accuracy and ready to mail.
6 I fell in love with temperature-controlled computer labs in college one summer term when the temps were stubbornly sweaty &  sticky.  Except the minicomputer lab, which had to be kept cool per warranty.  All of which is to say, taking computer classes to help cool off has served me well & I’m glad.
7 Leg lifts are my friend.
8 Stretching makes me feel divine.
9 Chocolate covered espresso beans are yum.
10 So much enjoying Mira Grant’s book Blackout and how it improves my understanding of the prior two books.  (Feed, then Deadline. They are a trilogy, not a book & two sequels.).

The Fat Life Isn’t

Internet is part of life, but it’s not all of life.

The people I know offline aren’t surprised that I am married, employed, and co-own a house.  The emails I get from this site often assume these aren’t possible, or that I must be some sort of exception.  There’s also am assumption that my fat is the biggest problem I have.

No.  So no.  A world of no.

This is a blog about fat acceptance and demystifying fat.  I write about fat, but it’s not the biggest thing.

In February my father went into hospice and my husband nearly died from an infection.  My father did die, barely a month later.

My fat is much smaller than that.

I may start posting more about the non-fat parts of my life. Or not.  But no, me not posting as much here doesn’t mean I’m not fat anymore.  It can mean I’m preoccupied with estate stuff and new hire training and crunch mode and volunteering and and.

The disconnect may be that I announce my weight here. In real life people see it, but I don’t throw out the Big Scary Number.

PS leg lifts love me.   :)

Kitchen Heroes

The man of the house made dinner tonight.  Not fancy — a steak stir-fry and garlic bread — but colorful and crunchy yummy.  It’s not uncommon, either.  I work longer hours and I have the longer commute.  A friend was over for dinner tonight and it was comfortable and normal.

Today, for some reason, it reminded me of this song by Talis Kimberley:

Funny how the heroes change
My childhood knights, you’d find it strange
To occupy the daydreams I have now
Sure you ride a white horse, wave a sword,
And pledge your honour to some liege lord,
But when you’ve spilled your blood and made your vow…

Someone rubbed the horse down and got the creature fed
Someone set the table and someone made the bed,
Someone cleaned the boots and fixed the tack, washed the clothes, and put it all back
With a flask of something good and strong that was brewed last year when the nights were long…

— from Kitchen Heroes

Tonight, I have a kitchen hero.  I am happy.

(You can hear the song at YouTube.)

Fat People Die Sooner, Right?

Reading Michelle’s post on death (cached here if you can’t read it on her site)   got me thinking.

How else on earth could you explain a doctor expressing anger and blame at someone for accidentally dying? And to then vent that anger on his grieving wife? You couldn’t. There was no other explanation but the fear of death, utilizing the Just-world Hypothesis as its conduit.

Fortunately that didn’t happen to me when either parent died.  My mother, who died at age 74, reached the point with Parkinson’s and Lewy body dementia where she could no longer eat or drink.  My father died of a heart attack brought on by severe anemia related to bladder cancer.  He was 77.

My mother was fat for most of her life.  My father was thin for most of his.  Neither died due to a health problem for which fat or thin is a specific risk.  My father smoked for decades, which increases bladder cancer risk — but smoking isn’t the only risk factor.

Sometimes it’s not about fat.


A few related links:

Age is the number one risk factor for dying. My folks were born in the early 1930s. According to the US SSA (Figure 2a) my mother’s life expectancy at birth was  60 years — and my father’s was less.

My mother also struggled with diabetes and depression, both of which increase death risk.

Longer-lived parents tend to have longer-lived children. It’s like it’s genetic or something.

QOTD: Dealing with family

Because I don’t engage in fat hating comments or conversations I really just feel more and more like the black sheep from the family. Many of my family members have undergone bariatric surgery so the stress between them and myself is even worse. I have had one cousin who is a lot older than me tell me how proud she is of me for the work I am doing, but my aunt who is her mother left the room during the conversation because she acts like this portion of my life doesn’t exist to her.

— Amanda Levitt, quoted at Fat and the Ivy

Thankful Thursday

[an occasional exercise in gratitude]

1. The man of the house is no longer in the hospital with a 104F (40C) fever.  (That…was scary.)

2. My new job has better health insurance than we had previously. (I’d prefer a single-payer solution, but it’s what I’ve got.)

3. Hospice care is providing more monitoring for my father to help avoid surprises and ER visits — and they come to HIM, which is much better than ambulances.

4. My father is happy in the care home where he lives and is getting good care.

5. Supportive friends and chosen family, for helping me to stay sane.

 

Parents

It is beginning to sink in that my father is dying.  My mother died nearly 6 years ago, so I’ve been managing his finances and meeting with doctors and such.

A large part of me feels numb.

I’ve written before that I didn’t have the best relationship with my parents as an adult.  Part of this was due to my fat, though that certainly wasn’t the only issue.   In the past couple years I’ve gone from seeing my father a few times a year to seeing him once a week or more.  He seems to feel that he’s very close to me.  I see him as an amiable relative who is slipping away.  It’s also a loss, both of what was, and a reminder of what could have been.

I should note that I’m not sure I can have a full, two-sided relationship with someone with dementia.  Partly it’s the memory loss (he’s asked me to visit at least once a month, and I explained I’ve been visiting once a week).  He is dependent on me, in many ways, and that affects things.  I’m not looking for the relationship I didn’t have 20 years ago, because that’s not possible now.  But I am reminded of the relationship we could have had 20 or 30 years ago.

This isn’t just my regrets, or my loss of a parent.  He made his own choices.  It’s very possible that his dementia is due to his longterm drinking. I know his drinking affected our relationship, and my relationship with my mother, same as I know their wanting me to be thin affected me and my relationship with my parents.

I realize these may not be the typical feelings at facing the eventual loss of a parent.  But there it is.

Waiting

I am waiting outside a medical supply store that’s closed for lunch.

Why?

To pick up some catheter supplies for my dad.

Yes, my life is so glamorous. :/

For All The Parents Out There…

Think about how you will react if your child is fat.  Over time, if you’re making it clear that you don’t want a fat son or daughter, well, your son or daughter may not be able to stop being fat.  But your son or daughter can eventually choose to stop being your son or daughter.  Imagine your adult child building a life with people who aren’t nagging about weight loss, or who can enjoy doing something physical without making it about weight loss, or who can eat a meal without it being about weight loss.  Calling home?  Not required.  Spending time together?  Optional.  Listening to lame weight jokes?  Optional.

There are certainly other issues that can cause this sort of distrust.  It didn’t help that my parents’ reaction to my dating a woman was insist I not tell any other family members and then studiously not  want to talk about her much less meet her.  It didn’t help that my father drank large amounts of beer daily for the first 20 or 21 years of their marriage.   A lot of things didn’t help.   But it’s generally expected that drinking or rejecting a child’s sexuality is going to be harmful to the relationship.  Giving kids shit for being fat is practically a requirement of “good parenting” these days.

My dad periodically asks why he can’t move in with my husband and I.   Frankly?  I don’t want to provide day-to-day care for him.  I distanced myself for my emotional safety.   I wouldn’t want him as a roommate, much less as a semi-disabled adult I’m caring for.  My emotions are tangled on this, but my want is for him to live happily ever after … without needing me.

Thankful Thursday

[An occasional exercise in gratitude.]

At the moment I’m thankful for:

  1. My temp gig is continuing to go fairly well.
  2. My father is doing better.
  3. I got over my “but things can’t get better” thinking and saw my ARNP about my anxiety, insomnia, and depression symptoms.  My ARNP prescribed Celexa (for depression) and Ambien (for insomnia).
  4. Ambien does help me sleep.  Celexa does seem to help my depression.
  5. I am continuing to do other things to take care of myself.
  6. The man of the house loves me.
  7. Our friends are also supportive and helpful.

Overall: my life is not perfect. My life is not terrible.  I am coping — sometimes day by day, sometimes minute by minute, but coping.

How’s y’all?